Monday, March 26, 2012

What About Passover on Shabbat?

Dear Tanta Golda,
I understand that Passover starts on Shabbat this year. It there anything special I’m supposed to do?
Poorly Prepped for Pesach
Dear Poorly,
In case you haven’t noticed, Tanta Golda herself was not raised in an Orthodox home so she had to look this one up to be certain. The short answer – no. If Passover was starting on Saturday evening this would be a whole different story, but this doesn't occur again until 2021 so why look for trouble?
In this case the only effect on your Seder observance will the blessing said over the candles. – Remember, candles are lit for every Yom Tov.
So on Friday night you will say: Baruch ata Adonai, Eloheinu Melach haolam, asher kid’shanu b’mitzvotov, v’tzivanu, l’hadlik ner shel Shabbat v’Yom Tov.
For more Passover questions answered, check out my blogs from March and April of 2011

Love as always, and may your matzah always be crispy,
Tanta Golda

Monday, March 12, 2012

Quinoa for Pesach?

Dear Tanta Golda,
I'm going to be hosting a large group at my house on the second night of Pesach. I was wondering, can I serve quinoa?

Dearest Curious,

An interesting question! I'd say yes as it isn't one of the 5 prohibited grains: wheat, rye, oat, barley, spelt.

As you may know some Ashkenazic Jews also refrain from rice, and legumes such as peas ( this always seemed silly to me - I mean if it isn't in flour form, why not?) and Sephardic Jews often refrain from corn and rice as well as legumes.

Quinoa doesn't make any of these lists. It originated in the Andes - historically not a part of the world that our ancestors migrated from. Now perhaps rabbis in South America have made "rulings" on this, but I'd say you're safe.

Have a Happy Pesach!
Tanta Golda

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Jewish Humor

Dear Tanta Golda,
I recently picked up a joke book and I noticed that there were quite a few Jewish jokes. This got me wondering: Why are there so many Jewish mother jokes? Don’t Catholics, Buddhists, and Jehovah’s Witnesses have mothers? Aren’t they funny too?
Son of a Jewish mother

Dear son,
Jewish mothers are funny? I hadn’t noticed…
All I do is worry about you – Stop slouching, you think I don’t know you’re slouching out there on the other side of this letter? Do you want to be as hunched over as that poor hunchback of Notre Dame? Do you think he had a Jewish mother? Of course not! Look at him.

Now where were we? Oy yes, why Jewish humor. There are some who say that Jewish humor stems from the legal and intellectual methods used in the Talmud, where the arguments are so elaborate and situations used so absurd, as to border on humor. I don’t know that the scholars of the time saw themselves as comedians, but it’s an interesting concept to ponder.

Now that you’re done pondering, let’s look at more modern roots of Jewish humor. Much of what we in the United States think of as “Jewish Humor” had its roots in Eastern Europe. Why is Eastern Europe so important to humor? Well, bubalah that is where the majority of American Jews can trace their ancestry. So now, think pogroms, blood libel, and the Holocaust. Is it any wonder that Saul Bellow once said, “Oppressed people tend to be witty.” It was a part of a long tradition in Eastern Europe to mock powerful people. Look at Purim Shpeils. A scholar of Jewish humor – Rabbi Woldoks – said that humor defends the poor against the exploitation of the upper classes or other authority figures (even rabbis!)

This style of self- deprecating humor was brought to American consciousness first through vaudeville, then radio, stand-up, films, and television. It is true that comedians have been disproportionally Jewish, though the past 15 or so years as seen a rise in the same sort of self deprecating humor coming from the African-American and Hispanic communities.

The stereotype of the overbearing Jewish mother and smothered son, was further fueled by fiction writers such as Herman Wouk and Philip Roth. Author William Helreich (another nice Jewish boy) posited that the attributes we associate with Jewish mothers (over protective, pushy, and guilt inducing) can equally describe mothers of other ethnicities. These traits have their roots in the self sacrifice of first generation immigrants who then transfer their aspirations onto their darlings. And why wouldn’t they? It has been noted that as the immigrant generation becomes further removed, mother jokes have morphed into the Jewish grandmother joke. Hmph!
If one does a web search (not for spiders, Tanta Golda wouldn’t tolerate them in her home!) there are plenty of jokes about Catholics (often listed as ‘clean’) and even Buddhists. The fact is – in Tanta Golda’s unbiased opinion – Jews are just funnier.